The Spectacle Blog

Clarification: No, Newt is no Duke

By on 12.7.11 | 3:43PM

For all those who think I intended to compare, in the sense of come anywhere close to equating, Newt Gingrich with David Duke, I hereby insist that such was neither the intent nor in any sense a fair reading of the carefully constructed argument I made. But for those who read between the lines to see something not intended, I apologize, because the impression is a noxious one. But think about how arguments often are constructed: One pulls something that is both near to one's own experience and also known to the public -- and one chooses the most stark example to make one's point. The VOTER response to Duke was such an interesting phenomenon, and such a stark example of the voter equivalent of "jury nullification," that I thought it made THAT point (about voters focusing on what they see personally above all other info) better than anything else I could come up with -- ESPECIALLY because it was an example I was so personally familiar with, having spent so much time fighting against Duke and dealing with just that phenomenon. Frequent readers of this site will have noticed that I have on a number of occasions used examples from the Duke experience in the course of making other, broader points. To use a favorite Gingrich word, I frankly thought I had made a more than ample effort (two long paragraphs on what I was describing with Duke, plus another of the exact sorts of things -- none of them racial -- I said voters are discounting about Gingrich) to explain quite precisely what I meant.

On a purely logical level, I still think I constructed a solid explanation of what I meant.

On the other hand, there was another time here that I did almost the exact same thing, but with Mussolini rather than Duke serving as an example, in terms of the economics pushed by Barack Obama. My explanation there was exhaustive, even quoting extensively from Wikipedia to show the generic nature of my point. In that case, Chris Matthews went ape on me, as did other lefties -- and most readers of this site rushed to my defense, recognizing exactly that I had not tried to portray Obama personally as a murderous thug, etcetera, but that I had made a very careful point that by logic was entirely valid. What I guess this shows is that how one reads something depends on where one's sensitivities lie: If one is feels inclined to defend the subject being criticized, one sees more evil intent in every part of the criticism itself.

It is a normal and decent human reaction, and one I ought to have considered before making the situational analogy. If there was a misreading originally, it was a misreading I left myself open to, and, again, I apologize.

On the other hand, for those who read my earlier explanations and still insisted that I had INTENDED to do what I said I did not intend -- including fellow bloggers -- that is an entirely unmerited insult not just to my intentions but to my integrity. It is not acceptable.

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